May 14th, 2009
09:33 PM ET
11 years ago

Specter primary challenger drops out

The withdrawal of Joe Torsella is good news for new Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, pictured here with the president soon after switching parties.

The withdrawal of Joe Torsella is good news for new Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, pictured here with the president soon after switching parties.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter received welcome news Thursday evening when his only current primary challenger abandoned a run for the Democratic Senate nomination, two Democratic sources tell CNN.

Joe Torsella, the former president of the National Constitution Center, will officially announce his decision on his campaign Web site Thursday evening.

Specter and national Democratic leaders are still waiting word on whether the former Republican will be challenged for the Democratic nomination by Rep. Joe Sestak, who has not ruled out a bid for the Senate nomination.

In several interviews since Specter's switch, Sestak has been critical of the senator.

"I'm not sure he's a Democrat yet," the congressman told CNN's John King on State of the Union nearly two weeks ago.

Specter recently renounced his GOP affiliation and joined the Democratic Party. His switch is key to helping give President Obama a filibuster-proof majority - in theory - in the Senate.

Specter gives Democrats 59 votes in the chamber. Democrat Al Franken would give Democrats the 60th vote needed once his Senate race with GOP Sen. Norm Coleman is resolved. It is believed that Franken, who holds a lead of a few hundred votes over Coleman, will prevail in the courts.

Obama and national Democratic leaders embraced Specter after he switched parties, and pledged to support him in his 2010 re-election bid.

UPDATE 9:33 pm.: Joe Torsella makes it official.
(See Torsella's statement and link to his video announcement after the jump.)


Philadelphia, PA – Today Joe Torsella sent the following message to his friends and supporters regarding his campaign for the United States Senate.

You can watch Torsella's video announcement regarding his campaign at:
[the video is available on YouTube]

"Dear Friend,

"As you know, earlier this year I decided to run for the United States Senate from Pennsylvania. I thought we needed a Democratic Senator who would champion new ideas and new solutions to old problems.

"But as we’ve all learned, campaigns can be unpredictable.

"Senator Specter’s decision to join the Democratic Party transformed this election.

"Over time, it’s become clear to me that the kind of campaign this would become is not the kind of campaign I – or you – signed up for. It would probably become negative, personal, and all about Senator Specter’s past, not our common future. And that doesn’t do Pennsylvania any good.

"So I’ve decided that I’m not going forward with my campaign for the Senate under these circumstances.

"I’ve posted a video on our campaign website explaining my decision and I hope you’ll take a moment to view it.

"If you were kind enough to contribute, we’re going to tally up the accounts and send your money back. I know you wanted to send me to the Senate, not to send me a political blank check.

"And I want you to know, I’m not going anywhere. I intend to play an active part in the conversation about renewing America that has started in Washington, but is far from finished.

"There will be other opportunities to serve the country and state we love and to draw America just a little closer in our generation to the bright promise of our founding ideals. I hope you and I will both be part of that, together.


"Joe Torsella"

–CNN's Martina Stewart contributed to this report.

Filed under: Arlen Specter • Joe Sestak • Pennsylvania • Senate
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Let's hope Specter gets what he deserves...

    he's already lost all of his seniority-hopefully now he'll get the same knife in the back that he gave to the Republican party-what goes around–comes around.

    May 14, 2009 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  2. Nancy Powers

    Why do you keep giving this person so much coverage??? He has nothing to offer and keeps the negativity going....Stop wasting the airwaves.!!!!

    May 14, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  3. NS0710

    JOE SESTAK FOR SENATE! People say we don't want a "Rubber stamp"'s the point of a party platform. IF we can't at least get 95% agreement, why are we supporting someone who allegedly supports the platform? This is false tension. Joe Sestak is simply a better Democrats based on the issues, plus he's a three Star Admiral! Go Admiral!

    May 14, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  4. vizbiz

    They must have gave him an offer he couldn't refuse .........

    May 14, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  5. Rick CT

    Wonder what the payoff was for this (or the backroom threats)

    May 14, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  6. No Incumbents 2010

    Wow, that's convenient. That doesn't cause me to think of under the table deals. My government and change I can believe in.

    May 14, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  7. Perusing-through

    I LIKE SEN. ARLEN SPECTER . . . BUT . . . I still think Specter should prove his "Democratic metal" by running against Congressman Joe Sestak in the state party primary.

    May 14, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  8. Sceptic

    Gee; Wonder how that happened 🙂

    May 14, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  9. RR

    anyone wanna bet Rahm "The Hammer" Emmanuel is behind this?

    May 14, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  10. truth is liberal sort of

    this is a sing-a long for the loony left......Bye-Bye Nancy....Bye-Bye Nancy... it's nice to see you go...

    May 14, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  11. Rick Sutter

    Dropped out, huh...what a coincidence.

    May 14, 2009 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  12. Nestor, Austin, TX

    Well instead of getting thumped in the primary, he'll just get thumped in the general election.

    May 14, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  13. Boudin

    This old guy like Teddy Kennedy should have left a long time ago.

    May 14, 2009 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  14. Longhorn7

    Don't let him in Obama he is just another conservative tumor the republicans have towwed aside. They don't need him and we darn sure don't.

    May 14, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  15. Obama Payoff

    He will be in an administration job in a month – payoff

    May 14, 2009 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  16. suspicious

    I smell conspiracy

    May 14, 2009 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  17. jim carroll

    Senator Specter is a good enough democrat for me–anything that moves the Senate closer to sixty votes. We need Universal Health-Care and a Reserve-Retrainig Work Force. Recession is a product of
    ignorance caused by a gold standard mentality. Money should be tied to goods and services–not gold or some other insane idea. The Federal Government has the responsibility to make sure there is always enough numbers (money) on a computer chip to exchange all the goods and services that people's hands and minds produce.

    May 14, 2009 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  18. m smith

    They only good thing about specter is the fact that he may vote more democratic than republican. He is still basically a repo that didn"t want to loose his job. Even some of the repos would rather switch than fight. But thats because their spokes person runs around bashing 97 year old ladys. What a party.

    May 14, 2009 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  19. No Incumbents in 2010

    Spector is a DINO. Torsella is a wimp.

    May 14, 2009 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  20. Geez

    Wow.... Specter is starting to look like a "lucky charm" .

    May 14, 2009 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  21. Joel

    Someone needs to grow a pair.

    May 14, 2009 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  22. Peter E

    Why are people so afraid of democracy? Let the voters decide! If the people of Pennsylvania want to keep Specter, if they continue to believe he represents them, then he should stay. If they don't, then let democracy take its course. I don't see what the big 'controversy' is.

    May 14, 2009 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  23. Larry

    The Republicans win with these losers.

    May 14, 2009 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  24. MrBoo

    The real question is, did they pay him off, or convince him that running would be hazardous to his health.

    Which is the proper Chicago technique for candidate removal?

    May 14, 2009 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  25. Biased

    So, the democrats clear the way of all other democrats to make room for a guy whose sole reason for switching was to be re-elected? I kind of hope the republicans win in his district and show they are not as stupid as both Specter and the democrats take them to be. This is merely the old boys club looking out for the old boys.

    May 15, 2009 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
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